I’m sure most people my age had their first experience with Greek musician/composer Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou, aka Vangelis, when they watched Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. I didn’t see the unedited version of the film till I was 18 when I rented it from Video World. Before that I’d only seen the edited version that played on Channel 55 when I was 11. I stayed up till 11pm recording it off of the TV on our Betamax, pausing at commercial breaks and starting it back up when the Mike’s Car Wash commercial ended. It was a coveted tape in our family’s collection, along with a 2-hour SCTV(The Ten Commandments starring Curly Howard, so good) special that aired on NBC that I’d dubbed and an extremely edited for television Fast Times At Ridgemont High.
There was always something about that movie that entranced me. The visuals? Sure. The Replicants? Well yeah. Sean Young? Of course. The moral dilemma with creating synthetic slaves for humankind’s folly? That may not have registered till I was older but yes. But the thing I carried with me for nearly 40 years that takes me back to my parents living room and sitting in that oversized rust-brown chair watching Channel 55 is Vangelis’ score.
It locks into the neo-noir Dystopian world in a very visceral way. It holds the emotional conundrum’s of Blade Runner Decker, the tense and raw drive of Roy Batty, and the beautiful and sad eyes of Rachael. And the dark majesty of future Los Angeles in all its smoggy, humid and fiery glory. It moves through the moods and themes expertly, pushing you along to feel the visuals all the more. When I was 18 I’d even found the Blade Runner score on CD and played that thing constantly during the summer of 1993, along with Siamese Dream.
Besides Blade Runner, I never really delved too much into Vangelis’ solo work. I remember making a blanket decision that Blade Runner was all I needed from the Greek composer. I mean, with that soundtrack alone the man rewired my brain. I’d heard Chariots of Fire, too. But that wasn’t really my thing. Nothing was going to move me to tears like “Love Theme”, “Memories Of Green” or “Tears In Rain”. Nothing was going to be as kinetic as “Blade Runner(end titles)” or as visual-inducing as “Main Titles”. I’ve listened to the score and watched the movie so many times that it’s part of my DNA. From that school night in 1985 dubbing it off TV to watching the Director’s Cut with my son a mere few hours before we went to see Blade Runner : 2049, the movie and score hold a special magic for me.
Well last year I picked up a copy of Heaven and Hell in New York City and I was pleasantly surprised. I got a more Klaus Schulze vibe. I’d not experienced the heady synth stuff of Vangelis. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t delved into his solo work until then, but I guess it happens when it happens.
My entry to Vangelis was Blade Runner, and I think that will always remain the most important album for me in terms of his work. It’s as relevant and timeless to me as John Williams’ Star Wars and Superman themes. It’s also heady and new age-y enough to sink into and get lost in. It holds a lot of emotional weight for me, and that means something.